After two dismal rounds in the early part of the 2016 FIM Asia Road Racing Championship, Yuki Takahashi’s planned comeback at the Suzuka Circuit home ground has placed the SuperSports 600cc defending champion on the right path to potentially score the second consecutive Asian title of his career.

Following his second place finish in Race 1 on Saturday, Takahashi returned to the grid on pole position for Race 2. Takahashi’s slow start gave the hole shot away to Thai rivals Decha Kraisart and Chalermpol Polamai but the MUSASHi Boon Siew Honda rider was soon able to make up for lost time and overtook Chalermpol on Lap 3. That moment marked the start of a 10-lap intense duelling between the Takahashi and Decha. Decha’s Yamaha clearly had better top speed while Takahashi’s Honda was superbly fast at the twisty second sector.

The drama intensified on Lap 8 when Yuki Ito, with Tomoyoshi Koyama in tow, burst out of the 8-rider chasing pack to mix things up in the leading group. As the pressure intensified, Decha highsided at the last chicane on Lap 11, the same spot where he overtook Takahashi for the win in Race 1. The MUSASHi Boon Siew Honda rider used the reprieve well. While Decha’s crash slowed down the rest of the pack, Takahashi sped ahead to win the 15-lap race with a time of 33’24.813s.

Tomoyoshi Koyama, who had been content to bide his time in fourth place, brushed past Ito at the last corner and was second across the finish line with a time of 33’25.594s. Yuki Ito also celebrated his first podium of the season in third place with 33’27.430s.

“Decha proved to be a really tough competitor and the first three quarters of the race was a touch-and-go situation for both of us. I felt relieved when Decha crashed even though I was sorry for him,” said Takahashi.

Meanwhile, championship leader Azlan Shah Kamaruzaman was absent from the Race 2 grid. The BikeART Racing Kawasaki rider crashed out after the chequered flag in Race 1 on Saturday and sustained a broken leg that ended his run at the top of the SuperSports 600cc standings.

Tomoyoshi Koyama became the new leader after Round 3. A third place finish in Race 1 and a second place finishing in Race 2 boosted Koyama from third overall to the leading position with a total 105 points. Takahashi also jumped from fourth to second with 104 points in the bag. Mohd Zaqhwan Zaidi who finished ninth in Race 1 and fifth in Race 2, slipped down to third overall position with 95 points.